Bob Clark is standing in front of a glacier

Adventurer in Hope

Life is about discovering the hidden opportunities, there’s always something new around the corner.

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An early ending to childhood

Before I could drive, vote, or drink a beer, I had already decided what I would do for the rest of my life, had a life-altering accident that resulted in over 300 days in the hospital, and met the woman I knew I would marry. In the blink of an eye, Bob Clark the adolescent youth became Bob Clark the grown-up.

a close-up of a baby Bob Clark

Raised in Bridgeton, Missouri, on the outskirts of St. Louis, I had little interest in education in the traditional sense. As a fourth grader, I spent most of my school day observing the construction of the Ozark Airlines headquarters outside the classroom window. I then supplemented those observation hours by walking on the construction site every day to learn everything I could about building. My dad took notice of my burgeoning passion for building and nurtured this interest by buying me books on architecture and taking me along on the projects he worked on as a painting contractor. And that was it. At nine, I knew I had found “my thing.” The industry and work that would eventually define my professional life.

A few years later, when I was fourteen, I met Ellen. We were kids, but I knew I would marry her, and years later, I did. No part of my life would be the same without Ellen; she shaped me, our family, and many of the things that have become important to me in business and my community activism.

In the years after meeting Ellen, we faced no shortage of tragedy, joy, challenge and success, and we learned some hard lessons along the way. Lessons that deepened our appreciation of healthcare, deepened our appreciation of community, and deepened our appreciation of family.

Regardless of what life threw our way, a few things remained constant: (1) live by the golden rule - treat others the way you want to be treated; (2) look for the lesson, even in tragedy - tragedy can be unspeakably painful, but it can make us infinitely stronger and more compassionate if we are willing to learn as we grieve; (3) believe in the possibilities of the world around you -things may be hard, but inspiration and positive change can come from unexpected places, if you’re willing to look.

Building a Billion Dollar Business

I lasted a month and a half in a college architecture program before I dropped out and headed back to focus on a small painting business.

a group of men wearing suits and a helmet

By the ripe old age of nineteen, I found myself as a partner in an equipment company. Yet, it wasn't long before I realized that path wasn't quite right for me either, so after 4 years I sold my share and looked for new horizons. I always knew my heart was in building and construction— I just needed to carve out the right opportunity for myself. That big break came in 1984 when I started Clayco, with more enthusiasm than knowledge, but absolutely convinced it was the adventure of a lifetime.

a group of men in suits

Those initial years at Clayco were a whirlwind of learning the ropes and banding together with a group that grew from just a couple of us to over 3,000 strong. I made it a point to surround myself with people who were not only brilliant at what they do but also genuinely kind-hearted and community focused.

Together, we aimed to redefine how business is done— focusing on transparency, personal connection, and treating everyone the way we'd want to be treated. It's been a labor of love ever since. Building isn't just about the physical structures for me; it's about creating spaces that support the activities vital to the health and happiness of our communities. It's about leaving behind a legacy that my family would be proud of, one that makes a real difference.

Family Is My Foundation

Back in the day, while laying down the foundation for Clayco, Ellen and I were getting our hands dirty in the real adventure of raising a family. We were blessed with a bustling household of five kids and, as the years rolled by, eight grandkids who kept our hearts and home full.

Bob and Ellen

Life threw its share of curveballs at us, blending moments of pure joy with deep sorrow. In '88, we faced the kind of heartache that tests your soul with the loss of our baby boy, Bradley, and the sudden passing of Ellen's dad, David. Fast forward to 2005, and Ellen was fighting a rare disease with a courage that made you believe in heroes without capes. She lived life to the fullest, leaving us in 2010 with memories brighter than the stars.

In dealing with my grief, I took to the open roads and distant lands, finding solace in the solitude of travels, from the high speed trains in Japan, to the hot and sweat smelling India to winding paths in Kathmandu to the rugged trails of Mustang, Nepal, learning to cherish the moments we shared over the pain of the loss.

Bob and Jane holding a dog in front of a hay bale

Life, in its mysterious ways, introduced me to Jane, a woman whose spirit matched mine, passionate about making a dent in the universe. Jane, with her roots in dental medicine and a heart for community service, became my partner in both love and purpose. Together, we ventured back to Nepal, not just once, but twice, bringing smiles to those in remote corners of the world. Jane's dedication extends beyond the field, mentoring the next wave of healthcare heroes.

a group of people posing for a photo

I found the home is not a place, it the people and where they are. Jane and my 4 amazing children and ten grandchildren. We are particularly fond of our slice of paradise at Rosebud Ranch in Colorado. And now, we're embarking on a new dream, building Buttercup Ranch, a stone's throw from Rosebud. It’s just one of our latest adventures and we can’t wait to share it with friends and family.

Art and culture fuel our souls. We're on a quest, collecting pieces that tell stories, especially from emerging Black artists and indigenous creators from across the globe. Our passion also finds us supporting the arts in every way we can, from the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis to the Art Institute of Chicago and beyond. It's about leaving a mark, sharing beauty, and making a difference where we can.

Global Connections Leading to Greater Impact

In 2021 I took a detour from business and was appointed by President Biden, as the United States Commissioner General of the USA Pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai, (delayed by Covid) which was an extraordinary honor.

a group of people posing for a photo in front of a sign

This appointment reflected a journey that began long before, marked by curiosity and a drive to make a tangible impact. This role at the State Department allowed me to lead diverse international teams and engage with global audiences, connecting deeply with my foundational experiences of learning through direct engagement and building relationships.

In this capacity, I had the privilege of showcasing U.S. cultural diversity and innovation, encouraging visitors to explore, study, and invest in our country, and highlighting American leadership in areas such as climate change, space, food security, health, and innovation. The Pavilion served as a platform for these dialogues, echoing my lifelong commitment to fostering connections and understanding across different communities.

a person holding a microphone to Bob Clark

This role underscored a universal truth that I've observed from my earliest endeavors: regardless of our background, we share common priorities— our families, our careers, and a responsibility to our communities and nations. Above all, there's a unifying desire to leave a better world for the generations that follow, a principle that has guided me from my youth through the establishment of my career and beyond.

Going Beyond

As my life’s adventure continues, my work, time, and energy are focused on initiatives that drive meaningful change.

a building with glass walls and windows

From funding scholarship programs, internships, and research in areas like rare diseases to building educational and healthcare institutions, we try to make a difference in people’s lives. We've also intensified our efforts in diversity, inclusion, and community building projects all the while remaining nimble to support timely causes such as disaster relief.

To all my fellow entrepreneurs, leaders, dreamers and doers who seek to make an impact in the world, Bob Clark Beyond provides behind-the-scenes guidance to support, inspire, and ignite you— because no one reaches the summit without a helping hand.

a mountain range with snow and a sunset

I invite you to join the adventure, share your thoughts, and explore how we can collectively go beyond the expected, together.

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